Friday, March 23, 2012

Creative Uses for Quilts!

     My sister, Gigi Sherrell Norwood, is an amazing quilter (perhaps I can do a spotlight on her work in this space sometime), and I have loved and admired quilts all my life. Their normal uses are wonderful enough, as sort of the first wave in on-site recycling--not to mention treasure-repositories of memories, and beautiful, warm bedding.
Hausa horse armor--photo from the Smithsonian Archives.
     But quilts also have been used in a variety of other ways. There apparently is a tradition in the African-American cultures of designing them to help with healing or ward off evil.  
     I was fascinated with the "code" in quilts that was supposed to have been used by travelers on the Underground Railroad (I believe that idea has been questioned by other historians, but it's still a way-cool idea).
     Some of the most unusual quilting projects I've ever seen are their uses as what I can only categorize as "vehicle coverings."
     Let's start with traditional Hausa horse armor. I had seen a photo of a man on his horse, years ago in a textbook, and only recently re-encountered images on the "Diamonds and Wood" blog, published there courtesy of the Smithsonian Archives
More Hausa horse armor--and no heat stroke!
     The Smithsonian material says, in part: "Heavy garments of quilted cotton cloth stuffed with capok were widely used as armour for horse and man in central and eastern Sudanic Africa. In the Sokoto caliphate of northern Nigeria, heavily armed horsemen in quilted armour were known as Yan Lifida. They often acted as the bodyguards of an Emir on the field." 
     One would think both horses and riders might get too hot--but I suppose it's better to be very warm than dead from enemy arrows. 
     And they really do look splendid. I can't help being struck with the similarities between the patterns in the armor the horses are wearing, and the patterns of some of the quilts I've slept under!
This quilted cover for a VW Beetle was made for a quilt sho
by the Northwest Quilters of Portland Oregon. 
     So far, all of the uses for quilts that I've mentioned have been practical (to one extent or another). I'm not sure you could say that of these next ones! Fun? Definitely. Practical? Not so much.
     The first is a "Quilted Car"--actually a custom quilted cover for a Volkswagen Beetle. It was made by Northwest Quilters in Portland, OR, for a quilt show in 2010. I found a photo of it on the Flikr Photostream of "Quiltinkimmie," a.k.a. Kim Burley. 
The "Quilted Golf Cart" of the Palmetto Quilt Guild
of Hilton Head, SC.
     The second is one it took me a while to track down. I originally saw the "Quilted Golf Cart" in a quilting magazine, the Quilter's Newsletter, in 2005. After some online investigating and several emails between myself and Linda Solis, the president of the Palmetto Quilt Guild of Hilton Head, SC, and was sent some good pictures of it, taken by Doo Weidman of the Guild.
     I've included the better of them here. What impresses me most about the golf cart is that it not only has an astonishing array of different quilt block patterns (as does the VW above it), but they even created a quilted cover for the steering wheel shaft! I thought the fringe was a nice touch, too. It sort of evokes the "surrey with the fringe on top" from the musical Oklahoma!
     I think if I can draw any generalizations from this post and its eclectic collection of patchwork permutations, it is that quilters are very creative folk.
     And always have been!

PHOTO CREDITS: As noted, the images of the Hausa horse armor came from the Smithsonian Archives via the "Diamonds and Wood" blog, the "Quilted VW" from Quiltinkimmie, and the "Quilted Golf Cart" from Doo Weidman of the Palmetto Quilt Guild, with the gracious help of Linda Solis. Many, many thanks to all!